“I guess it’s like discovering you’re on the shelf of a pawnshop,
dusty and forgotten and maybe not worth very much.
But Jesus comes in and tells the pawnbroker,
‘I’ll take her place on the shelf. Let her go outside again.’ “
~ Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
I read somewhere about a survey that about 80% of homes in America have at least 1 Bible inside of ’em. When I was a kid, I never saw one in our home. Then again, maybe my Mom had owned one and it was kept inside a “church bag” of hers. But other than that, I never saw one on our home’s shelves or nuthin’.
I was about to say “dusty shelves”, but our home’s shelving areas weren’t dusty. Reason why was cuz the Mom always made me wipe them all down every single week. When it was the weekend, she’d throw a coupla rags at me and holler at me to hurry up and wipe down our shelves and whatever else she wanted wiped down with those rags. Back then, we hardly owned much knick-knacks on our shelves (compared to the countless super-dusty ones that we have galore of now), so wiping them down wasn’t that too time-consuming. But for a kid like me who knew the Cinderella Story, I was in utter misery as I carefully tried to wipe down the Pops’ knick-knack statues that he had collected over the years. Should I accidentally drop or break one, I knew I was dead meat. I’d get a good clobbering on my head, for sure.
So I dreaded the weekends, during my young years. Forget cartoons on weekends because we didn’t have cable TV after I was around 8, I think. Well, somewhere before I was 10, the parents had turned off our home TV’s cable cuz they couldn’t afford to pay for that bill anymore.
Note: I won’t share about the different denominations of the churches that I’m writing about here because I don’t wanna be possibly bashing any denominations. So I’ll just refer to ’em as “churches”.
Prior to my going to First Grade in school, the Mom made the sis and me go to a church. I have no idea why. She herself wasn’t religious and the Pops most certainly wasn’t either. I don’t recall either of them having stepped foot into a church themselves to attend a service. But like just about all Korean folks here, I supposed that the Mom owned a “church bag” that had a Bible in it.
The interesting thing about Korean Bibles is that most of ’em have the same pages of worship songs printed (added) to the back pages of their Bibles. Meaning, although they may be different versions/translations of Bibles, some of ’em have the same songs printed on the back of the Bibles. Therefore, song (worship) leaders would often just say, “Turn to song number twenty”, rather than tell everyone the title of the song that they’re supposed to look for.
I didn’t realize that about Korean Bibles, regarding their printed hymns on the back pages until much later, of course. Thought that was interestin’.
Like I said, I didn’t know why the Mom sent us to go to church every Sunday. Whenever that morning came around, I found it to be so unfair in life, to have to wake up early to get ready for church, when she didn’t even have to go either. What the point of it all was, was beyond me.
In my opinion, I think she just wanted the two of us out of the house. It’s not like we were roudy or anything. We didn’t even have a TV set to look at, for cryin’ out loud. And no books either. Not even any TOYS. Yes, folks. The sis and I didn’t even own or have any toys. To our parents, toys were for “other people’s kids”. For us, I think they believed that toys are just plain unnecessary. Period.
In regards to books, if ya mighta read my “learnin’ is possible…” post, that’s where I share about how book-reading was banned in our house (for me, at least) because of my poor grades in school. The parents clobbered me if they ever caught me with a borrowed library book. I really got it good, whenever I had gotten caught with that contraband in my school bag. Ho hum.
So every Sunday morning, the sis and I were forced to wake up, get ready, and wait to get on the church van. It was always the same dude who drove that church van. I can’t recall if he was a happy camper about having to be involved in this part of his church’s ministry. But I do recall his being a not-so-happy camper whenever the sis and I were late and he was honkin’ his van’s horn for the whole street to wake up that Sunday morning with us too.
Then we went to church. It was a big, tall white building. Which still stands and is still in use today, in fact. Sure doesn’t look as big now, though, of course. But back then when I was a kid, I thought it was like one of those huge cathedrals in Europe. Real big. I stood looking up at the sky, trying to keep my eyes from getting blinded by the sunlight whenever I looked up at it from the front doors.
When I went inside, it was always the biggest blessing to my physical body to come inside the building’s air-conditioning. Aaah. Much cooler than our home, and way cooler than the hot van that we ride in to get to that church. I wonder why the church couldn’t provide us with a van with air-conditioning. I guess it was enough that they picked us up from our homes.
When we entered, the sis and I always went straight to the section of pews where one of the female church members would come and give us the day’s Sunday Lesson. I have no memory of what those women looked like. I can’t even tell ya if there were 3 ladies who taught us – or even if it mighta been the same woman. All because I had never paid any attention to what the heck she, or whoever it was speaking to us, was saying. Their story never interested me, and I too, was no interest to them, I believed. Because nobody ever bothered to say to me, “Hey, look here, and pay attention!”. Nobody seemed to give a hoot that I and other kids like me, weren’t paying any attention to our day’s lesson speaker.
I can’t remember what in the world I did during those lesson times. Maybe they had lasted for 30 minutes or a full hour. Dunno. Maybe I had just slept through the whole thing or did people-watching. Can’t remember. All I remember is that I didn’t pay any attention. Which is why the whole church-going thing was meaningless to me.
Until it was time to go, that is. When the entire church service was over and us kids exited the front doors along with all of the adults (none of whom I remembered ever said anything to me), that was when it was gonna be the highlight moment of all of my church-going Sundays. Reason was cuz it was the time when the church handed to every single person walking out its doors something to eat. Yup, it was FOOD time! Yeah-hoooooo!
I couldn’t wait for that moment when they’d put into my hand either a jelly roll, a sushi roll, or some other snack to eat on our way out.
But what I do recall is how one of those jelly rolls had squashed inside my church bag. Considering how I salivated and just about woulda done anything for the single snack we received after church (cuz we didn’t ever have such snacks at our home), I couldn’t remember why in the world I had put that jelly roll inside my church bag at all. But some days later, I had discovered it in there, and it was all squashed up and molded. That was when my church bag smelled of mold forever and ever.
It was the church that had given to the sis and me our church bags. I remember how it was yellow-colored and square-shaped. Looked like a kid’s little briefcase. Whatever material it was, it was a good one, cuz it was wipe-able. Faux-leather perhaps. But even for a young kid like me, it looked a bit too kiddie. I didn’t like how it couldn’t be put under my arm, but had to be held with my hand, like a briefcase. And it was so thin, that I could fit only like 1 thin book inside of it. I sure didn’t own a Bible and the church never gave me one to put inside of it. So I mighta just put some paper and a pencil inside of it. Since I never listened to the kids’ lesson speaker or did any of the lessons given, I had nothing to put inside of that bag. So it just remained empty with a squished, yucky, and moldy jelly roll on the bottom of it ’til the Mom didn’t force us to go to church anymore.
Then came 1st Grade of school. The school I went to had a church on its campus and we had to go to it on certain days of the year. The only thing that creeped the heck out of me about that church was the casket it had of Jesus inside of it. I don’t know why I thought it was Jesus in there. Maybe it mighta been one of the apostles. Maybe I thought it was Him in there cuz the statue might’ve had a crown of thorns on its head. Anyhow, it was this particular casket that made me get all freaked out inside, whenever me and my classmates had to line up to enter that church building again. I always wondered why we coudn’t enter one of its other doors (I think there was at least 2 other entrances), so we didn’t have to pass by that casket. Cuz didn’t the teachers wonder how it would affect young kids to see and pass by? Nobody ever mentioned it bothering ’em, so maybe it was just me.
I went to that school all the way to 5th Grade. Most of the teachers were old women. Only one teacher was nice to me. She was my English teacher during my 5th Grade. I thought it was so incredibly weird how she was so nice to me whenever she called on my name to answer one of her questions (I never raised my hand to voluntarily answer any questions, of course).
The class that had to do with the subject of God was called “Religion Class”. The topics spoken about during this class was in regards to the saints, mostly. Of how a particular saint had become a saint. Their background, the country they were from, and of how they had come to remain remembered by their churchmembers today. That kinda thing.
It was only one teacher who had ever made Religion Class to be more than what was covered in our Religion textbooks. She did this just once, though. She told all of us to get up and one by one, we had to say a name of one of the 12 apostles. She went through our class like 3 times, and every single time, I couldn’t recall a single name of one of the apostles. Looking back on that day, I shoulda just said “John”. Cuz one can’t go wrong with that name being part of any list of names, no?
I don’t ever recall a teacher or adult ever teaching to me anything about Jesus throughout my 5 years there. All I knew was, that He was the skinny person statue on the cross with a thorn crown on His head. For what He had died for, I didn’t know. And the baby in the manger when Christmastime came around. Sometime during my years there, I had learned that He was supposed to be the “Son of God”. But what that meant, I didn’t know either.
Then came 6th Grade, when the Mom had sent me to another school. The school didn’t require students to wear uniforms. So of course, the Mom was very annoyed to have to buy me new clothes to wear there. And didn’t buy me anymore new clothes for many long years, after she had bought me that first number of clothes, just to wear to that school.
Now, this school was “island-y”. It had open windows on 2 sides of its classrooms, and no air-conditioning. Then again, it’s one Science classroom did have air-conditioning. Students ate lunch right at the desks, instead of at a chow hall or dining area.
What was most unusual about the school (and seemed like its tuition cost was ridiculous because of this) was the fact that each classroom was made up of TWO class grades. Meaning, one teacher taught 2 grades of students, rather than just one. So there I was in a classroom of about 20 students. Half of them on one side of the classroom was in the 5th grade, along with me. And the other half of the classroom were in the 6th grade. She taught us both in a few of the classes and taught us separately in the rest. Considering that we didn’t have no dividing wall to separate us when she was talking to just one side of the class, that whole teaching system seemed a bit messed up to even a poor student like me.
The following year, the school seemed to be even weirder. Now, it had school uniforms for us to wear. Wonderful for the Mom, who didn’t have to buy me new clothes – which I highly doubted she was gonna, anyhow.
So for my 6th Grade year, I was now on the other side of that same classroom, having the same teacher I had the previous year. Had we had cable TV in our home, I woulda thought I was in the Twilight Zone.
To be continued…
“He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.”
~ Proverbs 2 : 8 – 9